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UC Berkeley Researchers Develop Beating 'Heart On A Chip,' May Replace Animal Drug Testing

BERKELEY (CBS SF) – A breakthrough by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley that models the human heart could allow drugs to be tested without the use of animals.

According to a statement by the university, the researchers created heart muscle derived from adult stem cells. The tissue was housed in a silicone structure that they called a "heart on a chip."

After being placed on the chip, the tissue began to beat on its own at a rate of 55 to 80 beats per minute, which is considered normal.

Researchers then tested the effects of well-known cardiovascular drugs on the heart tissue. They found the drugs performed as predicted. For example, a medication used to treat slow heart rate caused the tissue to beat at 124 beats per minute.

"Ultimately, these chips could replace the use of animals to screen drugs for safety and efficacy," lead researcher and Berkeley bioengineering professor Kevin Healy said. "Using a well-designed model of a human organ could significantly cut the cost and time of bringing a new drug to market."

The team's research has been published in the latest issue of the journal Scientific Reports.

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